Only less than half of all students who sat for their Certificate of Competency (CoC) exams in long term vocational and technical training in Amhara Regional State have passed proficiency examinations during the first half of the year, according to the Occupational Competency and Certification Agency of the region
The proficiency tests, given at the end of both short and long term training across private and governmental technical and vocational colleges, continue to show below average competency rates for the second year in a row.
Among 41,750 who completed the long term training, less than half sat for their competency exams, due to the ongoing conflict in the region. From these, only 40pc were deemed qualified.
The CoC, administered nationally, is obligatory for students to pass on to the next level of their studies and qualify for employment.
Technical and Vocational Education and Training, first implemented in the country’s new curriculum in 2002, introduced this assessment system in 2008, following a revision in strategy in order to better qualify graduating students.
Students in the long term training which ranges from level one to five, lasting up to three years, have shown the lowest competency rates this year, according to the Agency, which has the mandate to assess graduating students. The long term technical and vocational training includes classes in health, agriculture, and construction while the short term training includes baking, hairdressing, and cooking.
The Agency, which has branch offices across five cities, administers the exams in more than a hundred assessment centers in the region. Supervisors and examiners take special training in order to assess the candidates.
However, ethical problems among the examiners is one of many problems that the Agency had been tackling in the past, according to Zelalem Aemro, communications head at the agency.
“We took corrective measures taken by the Agency for ethical problems on candidates, the assessment centers, and examiners," said Zelalem.
Three centers were closed and over 40 examiners are issued warning and termination letters according to a report recently released by the Agency.
Though the agency doesn’t have an adequate explanation for the low competency scores, research needs to be done to pinpoint the exact problems, said Zelalem. Yet, he believes that students are not well prepared for the examinations.
The length of time between the training and the tests, and the cumulative nature of the exams are some of the reasons cited by students for the issue.
“I took the exams six months after completing the courses,” said Bethlehem Asnake, who failed her CoC exams after taking her training in health at a private college. “It’s exhausting to sit for the exams on all the courses we took at once.”
Compounding the problem of certification is forgery of certificates. Twenty certificates sent to the Agency for validation have been found to be forged. The numbers in the report, however, belie the situation on the ground, said Zelalem.
“The forgery we’re coming across is from the limited amount that gets sent to us. Most institutions do not check the legitimacy of the certificate.,”
The TVET System has long been critiqued for its supply-driven nature in the country along with the quality of the training provided to the students. The work of the Agency is crucial in assessing the proficiency of the education sector, according to Abebe Yemnu, lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Bahir Dar University.
“Balancing the scale between the job and job seekers on the ground is also just as important as assessing their competency,” said Abebe. “This is the right time to develop a labor demand analysis, which helps to produce demand based manpower. This can play a vital role in reducing the unemployment rate both at the regional and federal level. It is being practiced by other countries in Africa.”